IOM reports 366 migrant deaths on the Mediterranean in 2017

TMP – 06/03/2017

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported that migrant deaths on the Mediterranean have reached 366 so far this year.

IOM’s Missing Persons Project reported that most of the fatalities, an estimated 326 deaths or disappearances, were on the Mediterranean’s central route linking Libya to Italy.

There has been an increase of over 300% in fatalities compared with the 97 deaths recorded on the route at the same time last year.

As fatalities on the central Mediterranean route increase, the number of arrivals has sharply decreased in 2017. Compared to the 105,427 migrants who arrived in Europe within the first 53 days of 2016, this year so far there has been an 87% drop in the number of arrivals, with just 13,924 migrants entering Europe by sea at the start of this year.

Across the entire region, migrant deaths at sea now stand at 366, compared with 425 for the first 53 days of 2016. This decrease in the overall number of deaths across the region is the result of the closing of the eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey and Greece.

In addition to migration routes shifting from the eastern to the central Mediterranean, the number of deaths on the Libya to Italy route is reportedly also increasing because smugglers are growing more reckless. There is evidence of smugglers taking to the waters in unseaworthy plastic dinghies or wooden fishing boats and overcrowding is commonplace.

IOM Libya reported on 24 February that 2,265 migrants have been rescued at sea off the Libyan coast since the beginning of the year, while 131 bodies have been recovered and an unknown number of victims remain missing.